<
>

What we'll learn about top NFL decision-makers with Tom Brady appeal ruling

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could make his ruling on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's appeal this week, so let's lead things off with how that decision will tell us a lot about some people in key leadership positions within the league.

Specifically, the spotlight shines bright on Goodell, general counsel Jeff Pash and executive vice president Troy Vincent.

From this view, they have been the primary drivers of a story that spiraled out of control and became something much bigger than it is, based on a shaky $5 million Wells report that blistered Brady for being "generally aware" of something that is "more probable than not" to have taken place.

With that as the springboard, here is our "what we'll learn" guide as it relates to Goodell, Pash and Vincent:

If they keep the suspension at four games, they are tone deaf. That would match the 2015 suspension of Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, whose transgressions are in a different and much more serious zip code when compared to Brady's alleged transgressions.

If they reduce the suspension to three games, they are instigators. That minor reduction would mean they are essentially telling Brady "we don't believe you, so bring it on; we want you in court."

If they reduce the suspension to two games, they are playing to perception. This is the safest play for Goodell, Pash and Vincent (and most likely) because it's far enough away from Hardy, but also lets 31 other teams know that they aren't backing down from a club that is perceived to have received favorable treatment in the past.

If they reduce the suspension to one game, they are strategic. From a perception standpoint, the league could still say it still held its line while at the same time potentially enticing Brady to stop the fight (while being able to maintain his innocence in the process).

If they overturn the suspension altogether, or table it to gather more information on air pressure in footballs, they are driven by fairness. This would be an acknowledgment that there simply isn’t enough evidence in the Wells report to conclude Brady is guilty. Take away rooting interest, and look solely at the available information and the league’s (lack of) history with gauging air pressure in footballs, and any NFL player or team official should be concerned that the league could come down this hard.